A youthful Motherwell U20s were held to a 2-2 draw by Dunfermline at East End Park this evening.
After going behind early on, Chris Cadden and Dom Thomas had the Steelmen in front and looking good for all three points.
However, with almost the last kick of the ball, Pars sub PJ Crossan fired a long-range shot bouncing past Brett Long to rescue a point.
For their first match back after the winter showdown, Jonatan Johansson made six changes to the team that lost to Aberdeen at Station Park. Gunnar Nielsen, Danny McNulty, Luke Watt, Morgyn Neill, Lee Erwin and Dylan Mackin all dropped out, replaced by Brett Long, Jack McMillan, David Ferguson, Adam Cummins, Craig McCall and Craig Moore.
The Pars, coached by ex ‘Well favourite Jim Paterson, were far more experienced and including first-teamers Lewis Spence, Ryan Thomson, Allan Smith and Faissal El Bakhtaoui in their starting eleven.
The Steelmen made the worst start possible when the Pars opened the scoring with their first attack.
Scott Mercer’s pinpoint corner from the left was perfect for fellow defender Declan O’Kane and he rose unopposed at the back post to head home from close range.
Incredibly, just seconds later, Motherwell might have leveled. A nice ball in from the right eventually landed at Steven Higgins and his sfirst-time hot looked net bound, but for a timely defensive block by Mercer at the expense of a corner.
Pars were setting the early pace though and El Bakhtaoui almost doubled his side’s advantage. The French-Moroccan front man skipped past a number of challenges only for his low shot to be kept out by a combination of Brett Long and the right hand post.
‘Well looked threatening on the counter and came close to leveling through Higgins again after good hold up play from Craig Moore, however the low bouncing shot went a yard or side wide of the post with Ryan Goodfellow at full stretch.
Higgins was proving the main threat for the Steelmen in the first half and he brought out a good stop from Goodfellow. Thomas and MacLean combined to create the chance, Higgins eventually smashing the shot at goal, forcing the Pars stopper to tip over.
It stayed 1-0 until the 38th minute when ‘Well got themselves level and it again came from a counter. MacLean put the Fir Parkers on the attack, eventually laying it forward for Moore. The little striker did well to keep possession before teeing up Cadden who flashed a low shot under Goodfellow and into the corner of the net.
Buoyed by their goal, ‘Well went immediately on the attack and should have been awarded a penalty when Moore was tripped in the area, unfortunately nothing doing from referee Scott Lambie.
At the other end, O’Kane had another header, this time from a free kick, but it was straight at Long who saved.
The Steelmen started the second half on the front foot and Thomas posted early intentions with a shot narrowly over the crossbar.
Mercer had a free kick straight at Long and MacLean had a similar effort from distance comfortably blocked by Goodfellow before ‘Well took the lead in spectacular circumstances.
Dom Thomas was the scorer, curling a superb free-kick high into the top corner after Stuart Urquhart had pushed Moore to the ground.
Confidence was up and ‘Well started to take control of the game. Within a minute, Cadden had brought out another save from the Pars keeper, who got down well to hold the low shot.
Thomas was tormenting the home defence with jinking runs and almost scored a wonder goal, beating two men on the edge of the area before dragging a shot just wide of target.
Play swung from end-to-end with both sides passing up chances to score. Higgins at one end, with Pars desperately clearing, and El Bakhtaoui at the other end sending a bouncing shot just wide.
The home side came within inches of leveling with a Mercer free kick that bounced inches wide. Thomas tried something similar at the other end, only for his effort to fly a yard or so over the bar.
‘Well had a chance to settle it only for Thomas to fire over before Pars leveled things up with the last kick of the ball. Substitute PJ Crossan collected an excellent forward pass, turned before striking it low past Long to earn his side a point.
Motherwell: Long, McMillan (McNulty – 76mins, Ferguson, Cummins, McCall, MacLean, Cadden, Thomas, Higgins, Moore (R.Leitch – 63mins), Hall
Subs Not Used: Currie, Campbell, Anderson, Watters